Your Financial Future:
Social Security Checklist
Download as a PDF
1. Have you earned a retirement benefit?
When you work and pay Social Security taxes, you earn "credits" toward Social Security benefits. You need 40 credits (the equivalent of 10 years of work) to be eligible to receive Social Security benefits.
2. Do you know how much your benefit will be?
The easiest way to get an estimate of your benefit is to sign up for an online Social Security account at ssa.gov/myaccount. You can also calculate your benefit using the Social Security Administration's Retirement Planner, available at ssa.gov/planners.
You might remember getting benefit statements in the mail from Social Security however, the agency has since stopped mailing benefits statements to workers under the age of 60. The only individuals who will continue to receive statements in the mail are those 60 and over who do not have a Social Security online account and are not receiving Social Security benefits.
3. Do you know what your full retirement age is?
Your full retirement age is the age at which you can claim your full, unreduced benefit amount. For anyone born between 1943-1954, the full retirement age is 66. For those born between 1955-1959, it ranges from 66 and 2 months to 66 and 10 months. For those born from 1960 on, it is 67 years old.
4. Do you know the earliest age you can collect a retirement benefit?
You can claim your benefit as early as age 62 (unless you are widowed-see below).
5. Do you know what happens to your benefit if you claim it early?If you start your benefits early, your benefits are reduced permanently. Your benefit is reduced about one-half of one percent for each month you start your Social Security before your full retirement age. For example, if your full retirement age is 67 and you sign up for Social Security when you are 62, you would only get 70% percent of your full benefit.
6. Do you know what happens to your benefit if you wait to claim it?
If you delay your retirement benefits until after full retirement age, you also may be eligible for delayed retirement credits that would increase your monthly benefit by up to 8% a year. The benefit increase no longer applies when you reach age 70, so you should claim your benefit by then if you have not already done so.
7. Do you know when widows can start to collect a survivor benefit?
The earliest you can collect a survivor benefit is age 60, unless you are disabled in which case you can claim your benefit as early as age 50. You can receive survivor benefit at any age if you take care of the deceased worker's child who is under age 16 or is disabled and receives benefits on the worker's record. Note however that if you take your survivor benefit at age 60 instead of waiting until your full retirement age, you will receive a reduced benefit amount just as you would if you claimed your own benefit early.
8. Do you know if you are eligible to receive a benefit if you are divorced?
If you are divorced, but your marriage lasted 10 years or longer, you can receive benefits on your ex-spouse's record (even if he or she has remarried). If you remarry, however, you generally cannot collect benefits on your former spouse's record unless your later marriage ends (whether by death, divorce or annulment). Your benefit as a divorced spouse is equal to one-half of your ex-spouse's full retirement age amount (or disability benefit) if you start receiving benefits at your full retirement age. The benefits do not include any delayed retirement credits your ex-spouse may receive. The benefit you are entitled to receive based on your ex-spouse's work must also be less than the benefit you would receive on your own work record. You do not receive the total amount of both benefits but rather you receive whichever is the higher amount.
9. Can I work while receiving Social Security Benefits?
You can get Social Security retirement or survivor benefits and work at the same time. However, if you claim your benefit before full retirement age and make more than the Social Security yearly earnings limit, Social Security will reduce your benefit. For example, if you are under full retirement age for the entire year, Social Security will deduct $1 from your benefit payments for every $2 you earn above the annual limit (For 2018, annual limit is $17,040). But this is only a benefit reduction in the short run; your benefit will be increased at your full retirement age to account for benefits withheld due to earlier earnings. If claim your benefit at full retirement age or later and still earn income, your benefit will not be impacted no matter how much you earn.